Dave, May 2, 2001 06:21 PM
“You got a cig mang?”, said the grizzled black man leaning against a waist-high wall made of concrete. He was wearing what would have been fashionable during the 70′s if it weren’t so torn up and oil stained. I peered at his shoulder and there was a small bloody wound. His face was heavily pot-marked and he had facial blemishes even though he looked about forty. He had lazy eye. He reeked of a cheap 40 ounce bottle of beer. But he looked sane. And his one eye that was looking at me was lucid and had empathy. i liked him already.
“actually dude, I do”. I did. I had just come out of the seven-eleven with a pack of benson and hedges menthol 100s. I don’t smoke. but today I guess i felt like it.
I packed it quickly, rapping the carton on my palm and opened it, tearing the metallic foil off and flinging it away. I took a cig and gave it to his out-stretched hands. I thought better and I gave him two more.
i put a cigarette into my mouth, and reached into my pocket for my Zippo. i realized i didn’t have it.
“Here, take this.”, said the bum, handing me a new Bic lighter.
“It costs more than the cigs I gave you.”, and I don’t have any money. I didn’t.
“Take it, I’d rather you have it. Life is ephemeral anyway. For me. A bic-lighter is something you can hold and keep. You have the pack, I don’t. You keep the lighter.”
“Thanks… If you’re sure…”
I got into the car and drove away before I started wondering how a 40 year old bum knew the word “ephemeral”.
I had the pack. He didn’t. So he gave the lighter to me.
I then remembered certain types of people destined for doom had lesions on their skin.
I turned my car around and went back to the seven-eleven, but he was gone.
Soo, May 9, 2001 04:42 PM
One night after a track meet, I went on the late bus to get back home since I had no ride. The driver, a young Latino woman in her early twenties, and I were the only ones on the rickety bus. She seemed kind of lonely, and so started to tell me about her life.
“So what about college?” I asked, after we passed her old high school.
“Naw, I never went. I ain’t graduated from high school either. An’ it kinda sucks cuz I only had one more class to take, y’know?”
“Yah,” I said and nodded. I never even considered the possibility of not graduating high school. “So why’d you leave school anyway?”
She paused for a moment and said, “Well I got pregnant.” She stopped again. “I got my beautiful baby girl.”
She slowly told me her story. She had two daughters, and their father ran out on them. Well, she knew where he was, she said. But he wasn’t “around.” I got the picture.
“But my boyfriend right now, y’know, he’s good and he’s there for me. Even though sometimes he don’t pay the bills or nothin’.”
She seemed embarrassed by this fact, so I changed the subject. “Who’s takin’ care of your daughters right now?”
“My mama. An’, y’know, my baby girl’s first birthday is tomorrow and I gotta work an’ everythang…” She sighed.
“My babies aren’t gonna be like me. Don’ ever get pregnant too early, girl, cuz even though I love my girls, I wish I had them later.”
“But ya know what? I’m going back to high school. Soon. I’m gonna get my diploma.”
Her words seemed so futile, and I knew she thought she was destined to this life as a bus driver too. But she kept talking.
“Or my GED. Maybe take classes at junior college. Y’know?”
“Yah,” I said. I knew.
cheap, so cheap
Kyan, May 30, 2001 01:34 AM
In my mind, I recalled the recent conversation with you-know-who, and it really made me think. Not just a little, but not a whole lot — just enough to captivate me, eat into my sanity, and lodge dangerously close to my perception. I realized then, after wedging a small cell phone into the back pocket of my jeans, that I would ultimately sit on it and that would certainly not improve the quality of my phone.
I stood, and I thought, and slowly I forgot where I was. Blank gaze and lost demeanor, I phased in and out of conscious thought as my mind consistently pushed the rewind button on the conversation.
“Are you all right?” she asked with a genuine tone of concern, and that was the first time I saw her. She didn’t look like she should be selling “The Street” newspapers, but she had a bundle of them — freshly printed, stamped with a large red dollar sign — under her arm.
I don’t trust genuine human concern. I nodded.
An hour later, she and I were in conversation. How she had gotten there. How she was making such an attempt to crawl out of the hole she called worthless and pathetic. She had kids, too, and they lived far away, unbeknownst of all this. But I understood pride.
She didn’t try to sell me a newspaper, only a smile. I caught up with her after she left and asked to buy one. When I handed her a ten-dollar bill and received my newspaper, she began to hand me change, and I returned the smile she gave me and walked to my bus stop.
True story. I kind of miss that ten bucks, but I’m sure she’ll put it to much better use.